Bombay Attacked VII: Challenges

Dipesh Chakrabarty has a lucid look at some of the key realities facing Indian democracy in the aftermath of the attacks in his Reflections on the future of Indian democracy:

The growth of this politics of identity has made elections into the mainstay of Indian democracy. It has distanced politics from issues of governance, and has gone hand in hand with a deepening degree of corruption, financial and otherwise, on the part of politicians and officials. A large number of the elected members of parliament have criminal cases pending against them, and media reports suggest an elephantine, unaccountable, inefficient bureaucracy mired in the self-indulgent use of resources (corruption and inefficiency often going together). There was, as last week’s events made clear, no effective coast guard force on the Indian seas, in spite of the government having been warned of possible terror attacks on Mumbai from the sea. When the Taj Hotel caught fire, it took the first lot of firefighters three hours to respond. The commando force had to be dispatched from Delhi and it took about nine hours to mobilize them, as they are usually kept busy providing “security” to politicians, many of whom see such security as a matter of status and prestige. It also turns out that the majority a very large grant recently given to the Bombay police for its modernization was spent on buying luxury cars and other expensive items for the use of senior officers and their ministers! Creating a security system that will effectively protect the population from terrorist attacks will not be easy. Corruption follows public money in India, as it does, unfortunately, in many countries, and undermines performance. Additionally, the effective functioning of any institution in India in a non-partisan manner would require that institution to be insulated from political interference. The second condition is not easily met in India. The required reforms thus call for a certain kind of political will that the political class in India has not quite shown in recent times.

Ahmed Rashid, Are Mumbai attacks a chance for peace?:

If India and Pakistan can understand that they are both victims of a strategic diversion by al-Qaeda and if international mediation can help deepen that understanding, then there is perhaps a greater opportunity for the two countries to address the conflicts that have bedevilled their relationship for 60 years – Kashmir and other lesser issues.

It will certainly be difficult for the two countries to walk away from the brink. India has a weak government whose counter-terrorism policies have been a failure and which faces an election in the next six months. The Indian public and media are demanding revenge – not co-operation with Islamabad.

Pakistan also has a weak government that is still trying to set parameters of co-operation with an army which dominates foreign and strategic policy and controls the ISI, the most powerful political entity in the country.

Pakistan’s other problems could well overwhelm the government – a troops mobilisation is the last thing it needs.

To turn the possibility of war into the possibility of peace, the leadership of both countries need to show statesmanship, determination and authority even if they have to defy the public mood in their respective countries to do so.